Tony Stewart has found a capable shoulder to lean on while he recovers from a fractured scapula. Stewart and Team 20 have acquired the services of veteran Ricky Rudd for this weekend at Dover International Speedway and beyond. "Early this week I...
Tony Stewart has found a capable shoulder to lean on while he recovers from a fractured scapula. Stewart and Team 20 have acquired the services of veteran Ricky Rudd for this weekend at Dover International Speedway and beyond.
"Early this week I got a call from Greg Zipadelli and JD Gibbs to see if I could help out this weekend," explained Rudd. "Tony, as everyone knows, got banged up pretty good at Charlotte two nights in a row. We aren't sure to the extent of what the roles are going to be just yet. They asked me if I would come out and sort of help them out this weekend."
Rudd practiced and qualified the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet and is expected to assume driving duties at some point during the Cup race on Sunday.
"Probably until the first caution," commented Stewart on how long he would drive until on Sunday. "Hopefully that will be early and hopefully we're not the caution. I think we're going to be in good enough shape by the weekend that if it goes 50 or 60 laps, I don't think we'll have too much trouble doing that. It's definitely going to be uncomfortable."
Rudd retired at the end of last season and admits it wasn't a tough decision to come and drive this weekend, "I have a farm outside Huntersville, NC and had to decide if I went out and cut grass for six hours this weekend or do I go to Dover and drive a race car. It wasn't a tough decision to make."
The veteran driver has some big shoes to fill. The reigning NASCAR Nextel Cup series champion is fourth in points; with Stewart not knowing how long he will be sidelined, Rudd may have a part-time gig for the next several weeks.
"It's been better," said Stewart of his shoulder. "The big thing is just taking care of the injury and let it heal and go about our business again. It's a typical bone break. It's going to take six to eight weeks to heal. There are little things you can do to help accelerate that. But you've still got to spend your time taking it easy and keeping your arm in the sling and being easy on the muscle and the bones.
"If we could wish ourselves back healthy, then I'd already be healthy again, but unfortunately it's just one of those bad timing situations where we got one of the toughest tracks on the schedule this weekend.
"If we get through this weekend without any problems, then for Pocono, we shouldn't have any issues. I think having that extra week to heal up even though it's only two weeks into it, having the treatments that we're taking should help the bone get a little head start healing and hopefully get us ready to get back in the car again."
Stewart needs to start every event for championship points to be reflected in his column on the point sheet. He hopes that he is feeling well enough to run the next two events (Pocono, Michigan) to their completion, however, Rudd will stand-by for Stewart through Sonoma.
"I think after Dover, we're probably going to be all right," commented Stewart. "We run Pocono and then Michigan, and those are two tracks that aren't very physically demanding. The thing with Dover is that it's one of the more physically demanding tracks we go to. Timing-wise, it was just bad timing. But we've got Al Shuford who was the trainer that was with us during Double Duty at Indy (in 2001), so the good thing is that we've already started treatments and started doing ultrasound treatments that help the bone grow faster and heal faster.
"So, we're already doing everything we can. It's just a matter of not re- injuring it in the next six or eight weeks."
Rudd qualified the No. 20 Chevy in the 10th starting spot but due to the driver change Stewart will have to start the Dover 400 from the rear of the field.